BALTIMORE -- For the first time since 2016, there’s going to be an Orange October in Baltimore.
After securing a postseason berth on Sept. 17, the Orioles clinched the American League East title on Thursday night with a 2-0 victory over the Red Sox at Camden Yards. Baltimore, which won the division for the first time since 2014, also secured the No. 1 seed in the AL, ensuring it will have home-field advantage through the AL Championship Series.
Now, the Orioles will fully shift their focus to making a deep run through the postseason, which they hope will culminate with the fourth World Series championship in franchise history.
"No matter what the odds are, we’re going to go out there and compete," rookie infielder Gunnar Henderson said. "And that’s what we’ve done the whole year. It’s been really cool to see where we’re at in the end of the year -- on top of the AL East."
What could the postseason roster look like?
C: James McCann, Adley Rutschman
INF: Adam Frazier, Gunnar Henderson, Jorge Mateo, Ryan Mountcastle, Ryan O’Hearn, Ramón Urías, Jordan Westburg
OF: Austin Hays, Aaron Hicks, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander
P: Kyle Bradish, Yennier Cano, Danny Coulombe, Jack Flaherty, Shintaro Fujinami, Kyle Gibson, DL Hall, Dean Kremer, John Means, Cionel Pérez, Grayson Rodriguez, Jacob Webb, Tyler Wells
What will be some of the toughest roster decisions?
The position-player side of the roster should be fairly straightforward, assuming there aren’t any injuries between now and the start of the postseason. Heston Kjerstad (Baltimore's No. 3 prospect and MLB Pipeline's No. 24 overall prospect) has flashed his offensive potential during his first big league stint this September, but there may not be room for him on the postseason roster, as the O's could prioritize speed and defense.
Baltimore will likely move multiple starters to the bullpen, including Flaherty, who has been pitching in relief of late. The 27-year-old right-hander struggled after joining the Orioles in an Aug. 1 trade with the Cardinals, pitching to a 7.11 ERA over seven starts, but he has since tossed two scoreless innings out of the 'pen.
The O’s will have a lot of strong starting options with Bradish, Gibson, Kremer, Means and Rodriguez. Those five should all be included on the roster, but only Bradish and Rodriguez are assured of getting starts at this point.
Right-handed reliever Jorge López is ineligible to be included on Baltimore’s postseason roster. He was claimed off waivers from Miami on Sept. 2, and players must have been in the organization by the end of Aug. 31.
Could Félix Bautista pitch in the postseason?
This is a huge X-factor for the Orioles. Bautista partially tore his right UCL on Aug. 25 and he has been on the injured list since then. But on Sept. 11, general manager Mike Elias said there was a possibility the 28-year-old right-handed closer could pitch again in 2023.
Bautista has developed into one of baseball’s best closers, as he has a 1.48 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in 56 appearances this season, striking out 110 in 61 innings. If he can return and pitch anywhere close to that level in October, it’d be a huge boost for Baltimore’s bullpen.
But on Sept. 26, manager Brandon Hyde acknowledged that the team was running out of time with Bautista, who pitched his first simulated game that day after previously only throwing bullpen sessions.
Who could they face first? When?
The Orioles are the No. 1 seed in the AL and will host Games 1 and 2 of a best-of-five Division Series on Oct. 7 and 8 at Camden Yards. They will go on the road for Game 3 (Oct. 10) and a potential Game 4 (Oct. 11), then host Game 5, if necessary, on Oct. 13.
In the ALDS, Baltimore will face the winner of the Wild Card Series featuring No. 4 Tampa Bay and the No. 5 seed (either Texas, Houston or Seattle). The Orioles won their season series against the Rays (8-5) and the Mariners (4-2), but they split with the Rangers (3-3) and the Astros (3-3).
If Baltimore reaches the ALCS, it will again have home-field advantage, hosting Games 1 and 2 as well as Games 6 and 7 (if necessary).
What is the Orioles’ recent postseason history?
Baltimore reached the postseason as a Wild Card team in 2016, then lost at Toronto in the winner-take-all AL Wild Card Game. In ‘14, the O’s won the AL East, then swept the Tigers in the ALDS (3-0) before getting swept by the Royals in the ALCS (4-0).